Injured runner: Checking back in

How have I been doing? How has PT been? What have I been up to?

Well, for one, I caught a cold that has been going around in my family and my office. I feel better than I did last week when I first started having a sore throat and super runny nose but now I have developed a cough that I can’t shake and still feel pretty tired. (It didn’t help that I had a very busy weekend and couldn’t “stay home sick” from my pre-planned weekend activities and obligations — more on this in a later post).

So, I haven’t been doing all my my PT exercises that I am supposed to be doing … Getting sick in the summer is kind of a bummer because it feels weird to be wrapped in a blanket at home when it’s so nice and sunny outside!

This is week 3 of physical therapy and I have another PT appointment at the end of the week, so hopefully I will feel better ASAP and have a productive appointment.

I haven’t been to the gym and/or swimming in like a week with getting sick and all. Even though I have been injured from running for almost a year, this is probably the longest stretch of “inactivity” in a while.

Hope to be back on track with everything (life, work, PT exercises, going to the gym), next week.

So, nothing really new to report for now.

Knee is still the same.

Injured runner: Learning how to swim yet again

I have had to learn how to swim now four times in my life.

  1. As a child when I was maybe three or four and my parents had me take “little tadpools” swim lessons — or whatever the classes were called at the time.
  2. As an adult when I decided to participate in my first triathlon the summer of 2012 and had never done any “serious swimming” before.
  3. As an adult when I found out I was injured from running last summer and needed to learn how to swim on a consistent basis and for a longer period of time.
  4. Most recently, as of a week ago, when my physical therapist told me to continue swimming without kicking my legs!

This post is going to be devoted to the fourth point because I have conveniently linked out to past posts about points #2 and #3 and I didn’t have a blog when I was four.

Ever since re-learning how to swim as an adult for my triathlon five years ago, I have had mad respect for swimmers. They are tough. They are relentless. They are strong. They can freakin’ hold their breath for so much longer than the average person!

And, now that I have attempted to swim without kicking my legs — so, yes, only using my arms — my respect for swimmers has increased twofold.

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I arrived at the pool Friday a little nervous. I was hoping that the lap lanes were not crowded because I didn’t want to be bumping into other swimmers. Luckily, I only had to share the lane with one other woman so we split the lane. She’s someone I regularly see at the pool and for some reason this time we started chatting and actually introduced ourselves to each other. I mentioned to this 60-something-year-old woman that I probably wouldn’t be in the pool for very long today since I was going to be swimming without kicking for the first time. She replied that she thinks that swimming without kicking is easier.

I placed the little floatie-thing — is there a name for it? — between my legs, just above my knees, and was on my way. As soon as I swam my first stroke, I felt uneasy. My stroke felt “uncontrollable.” I don’t know how to explain it other than saying that my lower half of my body felt like it was floating so much that my top half felt like it was being submerged under water with a greater force than normal. I felt like I couldn’t easily turn my head to take my breaths of air. Whenever my hands and arms would swing back into the water, I felt like I was pounding into the water and creating huge splashes. Sometimes, my arm would even waver and cross over my body as it re-entered the water.

I basically felt like I was not in complete control of my body. A few times I even swam too close to the lines that divide the lanes and ended up hitting the plastic markers!

Oh, and I was moving way slower than I normally do when I swim while kicking.

This was all so hard that after one lap I wanted to quit. I took off my googles, because for some reason they were fogging up, and looked over to my new friend and said, “Wow, that was tough! I don’t know how many more of these I can do.”

I don’t know what I was expecting her to say to me but what she did say kept me going.

“I’m rooting for you, Kristin!” she replied and dunked her body back into the water and continued with her laps.

OK, if this woman thinks I can do it, I can do  a few more, right?

With each lap I completed, the easier it became and the more comfortable I felt about my new swimming routine. I kept telling myself, get to 5 laps, then get to 10 laps, until I reached 15 laps and decided to call it a day.

For reference, I normally swim 30 to 36 laps on an average good day, with upwards of 40 to 45 laps on a really good day.

The good news was that after this workout, I didn’t experience any knee pain. The main reason my physical therapist does not want me kicking while swimming is because I told him that sometimes I have knee pain while swimming.

I’m doing all of this — including my PT exercises — to build strength and eliminate my knee pain.

And, so that I can get back to running once again.

So I’m OK with learning how to swim yet again.

Injured runner: The start of PT

I had my first physical therapy appointment on Monday and I’m excited and super motivated (right now!)

To note, I did self refer myself to PT last summer when I thought my knee injury was “just an IT band injury” but it actually was a stress fracture so the PT wasn’t doing anything.

Once I was diagnosed with a stress fracture, the orthopedic doctor I had first been seeing told me to stop going to PT because I just needed to let the stress fracture heal. I needed to rest and give it time.

So, I did.

But, during that time I also apparently developed “runner’s knee” so when I got a second opinion last week with a sports medicine doctor, he referred me straight to PT.

My focus this week is on single leg bridges (with one ankle crossed across the other knee), side plank clamshells and supine active straight leg raises. I’m doing three sets of 15-30 reps daily. (Well, the suggested number of times is five days a week so I am aiming for daily).

My PT can really tell I “have serious work to do” — my words, not his — because I can’t even do a single legged squat without wavering and wobbling around. I clearly need to work on stability and strengthening my muscles again.

For now, they have me scheduled out for one PT appointment weekly for six weeks. I’m hopeful that during those six weeks I’ll be able to incorporate some walk-jogging into the mix. But, we’ll see.

My PT also told me to stop kicking my legs when I am swimming laps and to lower the resistance when I am on the stationary bike or elliptical. (This is because I told him that sometimes I experience pain while doing these workouts). He told me that my cardio exercise isn’t meant to get me sweating or raising my heart rate. It’s to get my knee functioning properly again. So, if spinning on the bike for 30 minutes at zero resistance is what I need to do, I need to do it.

It’ll be hard.

So, maybe I will just focus on my PT exercises for now.

Good luck to me.

Injured runner: On really being hopeful

My second opinion went just about as good as I could have hoped it to have gone.

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The “TLDR” version is that this doctor has no concerns that my stress fracture hasn’t healed. That issue is basically no longer an issue we need to be worried about.

So, what’s with my off-and-on knee pain then?

He suspects I have “runner’s knee” — the clinical term being patellar femoral pain — which may be due to mechanics of leg strength and improper muscle activity. AKA, my body has not been running for nearly a year and now my muscles are all out of wack leading me to have this knee cap area pain.

“You’ll be running again. I’m not here to tell you, you will never run,” The doctor said, adding that my cartilage and meniscus look great.

 

Hearing this was such a relief. It sounds cliche, but it felt like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders. The unknowing-ness of what was going on with my knee for the past several months was making me annoyed and anxious and angry.

Now I do not need to get a third MRI (that the first doctor recommended).

I kind of wish I had gone for a second opinion sooner but c’est la vie. It is what it is.

I was lucky to snag a cancellation PT appointment tomorrow so at least my comeback journey can begin soon. And, this doctor I saw is a sports med doc so I got a referral to one of the “good physical therapists” who works with a lot of runners.

There’s no concrete timeline on when I can actually lace up the running shoes again. It all sort of depend on how PT goes.

But, that’s OK.

I’m so, so ready and really, really hopeful.

Restless recovery

In the past month I have gone on six runs. Only one of those runs was more than 30 minutes. (It was 31:22).

And, I’m getting restless.

I’ve been to five physical therapy sessions as of today and I miss running.

My physical therapist has not denied me of my running. She says I can run as long as I don’t go for too long and not too fast. I should not run to the point of aggravating my knee/IT band. And, no hills. I should be running at “recovery run,” pace.

So, that’s what I have been doing.

But, I feel like I am getting weaker. I am losing my muscle (the little that I had). I feel like I am getting fat, heavier. I know that this isn’t true but when I don’t run, I start to feel miserable.

I need to strengthen my glutes, they are weak, my physical therapist says. I also need to work on my core.

I’m getting pretty good at crab-walking.

This afternoon I jogged to my PT appointment. It had been more than a week since my last run/jog/shuffle.

Despite the fact that my feet felt heavy with every step I took, it felt good to be moving. It felt good to actually sweat again. (I can’t remember the last time I worked up a sweat).

I know this time off and this recovery period will be worth it.

Not running now is going to allow me to be healthy and fast come my 2014 races.

But, it doesn’t mean I’m not restless.